Heart of Romance
But as anyone who is married can tell you, romance changes once you get married and especially once you have children. I don’t mean to imply that it disappears or that “the flame” goes out, but it does become more challenging–or as I like to think of it, more intentional.
As things like finances, the cares of raising children, and the on-going struggle of time management each chip away at your marriage, romance often seems the first thing to go out of the window.
Yet this is when that choice–that “I do”–becomes all the more important. Marriage is a vocation; a calling from God. It wasn’t something (I hope) that was haphazardly entered into. And if this is our vocation, then we need to constantly strive to keep it at the center of our minds and hearts, rather than the sidelines as it so easily becomes, taken out for the occasional anniversary of Valentine’s Day.
I don’t mean to imply that this is easy or that my husband and I have it all figured out. Like any couple, we have our highs and lows. But as we strive to live out our marriage vocation day in and day out, here are some to the tips and habits we have picked up over the years.
1. Couple Prayer
Though this might not seem romantic to some, to me this is an essential part of maintaining romance in our marriage. After all, romance is dependent on an openness and unity between the couple. What better way for this to happen then through mutually asking for God’s strength and aid? Recently, we’ve begun incorporating a special kind of prayer into our marriage called A T.R.I.P. (thanks to a Supper and Substance event where it first introduced to us). It works like this:
- Acknowledge – Prayerfully acknowledge that you are in the presence of the Lord, quieting yourself and surrendering to God both internally and out loud together.
- Thankful – Take turns thanking God aloud for the blessings of the day and of your life. A thankful heart leads to a happy heart.
- Reflect – Choose a scripture or devotion passage to read aloud and to reflect upon as a couple. As you read/listen, focus on how God is speaking to you through the text. Then take turns sharing your revelations/reflections. Pray aloud to God in response to his Word.
- Intercession – Taking turns asking God to intercede for your own and loved one’s intentions.
- Plan (my favorite) – Share with each other your plans for the day (or if done at night the next day). This allows the couple to feel more connected throughout the day and guides them in how they should pray for one another while apart.
2. Learning & Meeting Love Languages
I am a big fan of the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. Essentially, the book explains that there are five basic ways of showing and receiving affection: physical touch, gift giving, words of affirmation, acts of service, and quality time. Though the goal is to become fluent in all five “love languages,” people typically have a dominant way that they prefer to receive affection. Some women, for example, may love receiving surprise jewelry and gifts while others infinitely prefer acts of service (cleaning the kitchen, cooking dinner, etc.). Because we are each inclined to one or two of these love languages, this is also the way we most naturally give to others. This can become problematic, however, if your love language does not align with your spouse’s. That’s when you get a scenario like this (which may or may not have happened).
Wife: “You don’t appreciate my cooking!”
Husband: “What do you mean I don’t like your cooking?!? When have I ever complained? When have I not eaten it?”
Wife: “You always put salt on the food *sniff* and you hardly ever say you like it.”
Working to learn your spouse’s love language and discovering ways to “fill their love tank” go a long way to making your spouse feel valued and appreciated. The book has lots of practical advice on this and also provides a love language test. You can also visit http://www.5lovelanguages.com/.
3. Practice the Art of Letter Writing
I’m also a big fan of letter writing. Often times, we are more eloquent when we write because we have time to think about what’s in our heart. The other benefit of writing is that it can be kept and reread for many years to come, offering consolation during those “low” periods in the relationship. When my husband and I were dating, he returned from Italy with a journal that we began taking turns writing to one another in. Generally, we try to write within a month after the last entry (sometimes going longer and sometimes shorter). Now that we’ve been doing it for several years, it has become a beautiful timeline of our relationship. I can go back and read the entry my husband wrote just before we were engaged, those written during our honeymoon, our letters from just after we discovered our pregnancy for our first child, and countless other meaningful times.
But if you aren’t quite up to a journal, you can still write letters, buy a Hallmark card just because, or leave sticky notes as surprises for your spouse to find.
4. Date Nights
Having quality time for one another, apart from the kids, stresses of work, and countless other distractions is essential to any relationship. Even if you are on a tight budget (which we are) you can still have date night ins. Evenings when you plan to drink a bottle of wine together, watch a movie, play a game, dance, etc. With me working at home and my husband teaching, we both tend to do a lot of work at night when our kids go to sleep. So we’ve tried to have one week night per week when we agree not to work and then make sure we have one night each weekend when we can get quality time. This might not always happen, especially during busier months, but by making that the goal we ensure we make time together a priority.
5. Go to Bed Together
Trying our hardest to go to bed at the same time has been really important in our marriage at well. This is when we typically pray, catch up on one another’s day, and fit in that quality time after a busy day. This can be difficult when one couple is an early bird while the other is a night owl. But even if both aren’t ready to go to sleep, follow your spouse and spend time with him/her before he sleeps.
6. Take Interest in Each Other’s Lives
This might seem obvious. After all, your lives are one, right, so it should be easy. But I’ve seen a lot of couples young and old get married and then begin living increasingly separate lives. Both are caught up in their careers. One is wrapped up in the kids and the other feels excluded. A spouse spends all of his/her free time at the gym or playing video games. Though it is important and appropriate for married people to still have time to themselves, it should never reach a point where the spouses are totally disconnected.
The problem is, romance requires unity. If you are starting to feel like strangers, it will be much harder to come together with that same connection or spark. Much like when you were dating, it’s important to take an interest in one another’s hobbies, even if it’s not ‘your thing.’ My cousin, for example, recently went pistol shooting with her husband for an entire weekend for his birthday. For Christmas, my husband surprised me with 8 ballroom dancing lessons (totally not his thing). Every couple has to find their own way of doing this, but what matters is that they work at being part of one another’s lives as much as possible.
I hope you find some of these tips helpful. If you have additional ideas, I’d love to see them in the comments below. I’m always looking for ways to work on my own marriage and would love the feedback.